GERMANY: In a new series, The THES studies the pattern of student choice in Europe
Internet business success stories such as the search engine Yahoo! and bookseller Amazon.com are inspiring German students to take degrees in electronic commerce.
University business and economics departments report that courses offering e-commerce specialisms are being overrun with students. "Students are picking up on stories such as the American PhD students who founded Yahoo! and became multi-millionaires," said Sonke Albers, who has a chair in innovation, marketing and new media at Kiel University.
In a country where more than half of students now say that future career chances are an important factor in their degree choice, Professor Albers can understand their interest.
"I receive calls from internet companies nearly every day looking for student trainees," he said.
Official statistics charting the pattern of student degree choices are beginning to reflect student interest in new technology, not just in economics but within all subject groups, said Karl Lewin, author of the latest report on first-year student choices by the German Higher Education Information Service.
His study revealed that economics, law and social science subjects remain the most popular
subjects among new students, as they have been since the 1980s, with about 43,000 new students in 1998-99. But the steady growth in these subjects in the past
few years has been fuelled by courses emphasising new media and new technology, Dr Lewin believes.
He also attributes the rising interest in maths and science degrees in the past five years (to about 24,000 new students in 1998-99) to new courses such as information technology and biotechnology.
New technology is also helping to halt the dramatic decline in engineering students that Germany has experienced throughout the 1990s. A shortage of software telecommunications engineers has even encouraged some large software companies to design specialist degree courses with the vocationally oriented Fachhochschulen.
The German education ministry will welcome students' growing interest in new technology. It has forecast a shortage of 75,000 IT specialists in coming years and is launching campaigns to modernise the education sector.